Environmental Compliance: Collaboration

If there’s one convincing reason an EHS department should assess how it collaborates for regulatory compliance reporting — or doesn’t collaborate — it’s that successful proactive environmental compliance is impossible to attain without it.

In simple terms, collaboration is defined as the process of two or more people working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. For an EHS team facing various deadlines for EPCRA compliance reporting, however, collaboration requires more depth. 

To coordinate accurate data collection and reporting tasks between the team and facilities, collaboration should include all members of an EHS team. And to meet the March 1st deadline for all Tier II reports to be submitted to the various state and local agencies, it’s imperative that everyone works in concert throughout the entire reporting process.

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Connect the dots and dataflows first

The first step is making sure the collaborative dots are fully connected across EHS team members and Operations. Collaboration measures should additionally include any other stakeholders in the company who contribute to the compliance reporting function.

Throughout the process of preparing and submitting environmental compliance reports, collaboration should then encompass communication, data sharing, cohesive workflows, assigning and tracking tasks, and eliminating institutional knowledge silos wherever possible. 

As people work in a collaborative manner, it leads to more informed decisions and reporting outcomes that are often more successful. But when collaboration is lacking, the result is constant fire drills and a greater risk of non-compliance. 

According to EHSToday, poor communication and collaboration is the organizational problem that frustrates teams the most.  

Larry Hansen, “Why Won’t They Listen?”

Teamwork increases reporting effectiveness

In an environmental compliance reporting scenario, it’s not uncommon for final EPCRA, RCRA and other reports to come down to one or two people on an EHS team. However, processes to gather and review data can include an EHS director, a manager, corporate and regional subject matter experts (SMEs), facility managers, environmental specialists, or EHS technicians. Reporting data can also come from finance departments, purchasing departments, maintenance departments, procurement staff, and on down the business’s organizational line. 

EHS leaders should foster collaboration to promote teamwork among these EHS team members and associated stakeholders. Doing so can increase the efficiency of collecting, sharing, and analyzing information among the group, and keep data collection and reporting processes flowing seamlessly. 

Ultimately, the overall teamwork helps ensure data quality and reporting accuracy as well as decision-usefulness. 

Process and task management

Think of collaboration in terms of process and task management as well. In standardizing processes and making them more systematic, employees should be aligned with the process in a collaborative structure. 

Again in a environmental compliance reporting scenario, for instance, consider the various process parts and the people involved. At a facility, someone gets assigned to do inventory for chemical types and quantities. An SME on the EHS team then determines whether the facility has any extremely hazardous substances in an amount that equals or exceeds the threshold planning quantity (TPQ) for EPCRA. Further along, another employee in Purchasing must supply chemical purchasing records for the facility’s EPCRA reports. 

Collaboration therefore is both a requirement and a driver of the process to keep it moving in an unified manner.

Without the proper collaboration tools and training, though, the ability to manage processes and tasks in the name of teamwork is diminished. Data goes dark, deadlines get missed, employees start playing the blame game, and the risk for non-compliance goes higher. 

Central to a company’s culture and success 

In a 2019 study from the Institute of Corporate Productivity (summarized in Forbes), researchers found that when collaborative practices were “commonplace,” companies were five times more likely to be high-performing with workers delivering quality outputs. 

But “commonplace” doesn’t mean “automatic.” Collaboration must be encouraged by leadership, accepted and practiced by employees, and continually nurtured at every opportunity. 

To that end, successful companies make collaboration central to their culture. They connect people using workflow tools to assign and track work tasks. More importantly, they implement collaboration best practices and guidelines for users to improve scheduling, communications, workflows, and outputs. 

Regardless of where EHS teams sit in their company, they should follow the same collaboration blueprint for environmental compliance reporting. When they do, it improves process continuity and minimizes the risk of non-compliance. 

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

Tom Bailey

Tom is the Senior Content Writer at Encamp. And like all other Encampers, he’s in tune with the environment and what happens to it. He’s been writing about creative technology solutions for longer than he cares to admit.

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